Categorized | Television

Screen Time in School, and at Home, and at Friends’ Houses, and in the Car…

We knew it was coming. In this day and age, it was inevitable. My kids’ elementary school has now extended internet access to all students, and they are allowing the kids to bring in various technological devices to be used at school. My oldest daughter is required (not in so many words, but you know how that is–she’ll be the only one without her own and have to use the school’s old ones that don’t work well…) to have a tablet of some sort to do her work and research during some classes.

I think it’s great and necessary for kids to be learning how to effectively use technology at an early age. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for screen time for kids extends to all screens, not just TVs and watching movie. At least, it used to. The AAP has recently changed the wording in many of it’s web pages and articles to say parents should limit “entertainment media.” Some documents do still make it sound like the AAP holds to the 2 hour limit for all screen time.

Personally, I’m not a screen time control freak. Some days, my kids will do their online math for school, play a few educational computer games, and later watch a movie. This amounts to more than two hours of screen time total. Other days, they are busy with active types of activities and don’t see a screen at all. If I feel like we’re getting a little out of balance (happened a few times this summer), then I will just encourage them to play more board games instead of have a movie night or something.

Educational media, and even TV, can be beneficial for kids. Also, parents can help kids learn important life skills by helping kids develop healthy TV habits. Now that I can’t depend on the fact that the kids are pretty much screen free at school, though, I’m going to have to do a little more research into the effects of screen time on kids, and I’m going to pay a little closer attention to how our screen time schedules work out this year. Especially, because a lot of older kids’ home work has to be done on the computer, which could result in hours of sitting in a chair staring at a screen.

The entertainment media limit isn’t so much a problem for us, because during the school year we are too busy to get even a little time for entertainment media, much less two hours a day. But total screen time is a different story, and if you combine the educational and entertainment media, that could mean that many kids are spending hours and hours a day staring at screens.

Here are a few things we do in our family to limit screen time:

  • One day a week is a family and fun day for us, and we try to avoid technology and focus on being together. For our family, Sunday works best because we go visit cousins and do other activities that already set the tone for a technology-free, good-old-fashioned-fun day.
  • We don’t allow watching movies in the car unless we’re on a long road trip. However, we aren’t screen free any more now that the kids bring their little devices almost everywhere we go. We may have to make some changes there.
  • We try to keep the kids busy with other stuff — sports, music lessons, helping with dinner, and other hands-on activities.
  • We involve the kids in making decisions and setting appropriate limits on screen time.

How does your family keep screen time sanity?

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